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|11/6/2013 ||Email this article Print this article |
|Sabers stick with, but cannot upset fifth-ranked Saints|
A stingy Cedar Rapids Xavier defense proved to be too difficult of an obstacle for the Central volleyball team to overcome during Thursday's 4A region 6 semifinal.
Defense has been the calling card all season for the Saints - who are ranked fifth in the class - and Xavier ranks second in all of 4A with 1,893 digs.
The last 53 of that total came against the Sabers and the Saints added 14 blocks to limit Central to just 23 kills in a 25-17, 25-17, 25-19 sweep.
Fresh off of their victory over rival Maquoketa, the Sabers showed up prepared to play and the result was a tight set one.
The two squads evenly split the first 10 points with Central scoring on kills by Ellie Ladehoff, Amanda Brainerd and Katie Irwin, a Xavier attack hit out of bounds and an Irwin ace.
The Saints, though, broke the early stalemate with three-straight points.
A service error ended the run, but Xavier reeled off three of the next four points as well and it was 11-7 Saints.
The hosts, however, could not completely shake the Sabers.
Central cut into its deficit with a kill by Abbey Grau and a Xavier violation, and the Sabers answered a Saint kill with a block by Olivia Haack.
A serve into the net temporarily cooled the Sabers' surge, but Xavier followed with two mistakes of its own and suddenly the margin was just one.
The Saints pushed the lead back to two will a kill, but Irwin answered with one of her own and Central was close again.
The same sequence repeated itself twice more with Xavier preventing the Sabers from tying things up, but Central answering to get back within one.
It was 16-15 Saints when one team was finally able to string some points together.
Unfortunately for the Sabers, it was Xavier who accomplished the feat and a three-point run increased Central's deficit to four.
That proved to just be the start of a 9-2 flourish by the Saints that turned the slim margin into a 25-17 game one win.
The Saints' roll extended into the next set as well with Xavier scoring the first five points of game two.
That woke up the Sabers who began to eat into the Saint lead.
Central scored eight of the next 13 points, highlighted by a three-point sequence - Brainerd hit a kill, Xavier spiked a ball out of bounds and Irwin served up an ace - that pulled the Sabers within two for the first time in the set.
The margin was still two when the Saints began to create some separation. Xavier took advantage of five Central miscues and a kill to reel off six-straight points and double up the Sabers 16-8.
The Sabers were not about to be left in the dust, however, and they crept back into the game again. Mackenzie Kuehn got things rolling when she faked a set and instead deposited the ball over the net for a kill. The junior followed with an ace for good measure and Central was back within six.
Xavier answered with a side-out, but that just preceded three more Saber points (a kill by Irwin capped Central's push) and the margin was back down to four.
The next five points, however, were awarded to the Saints and the second game ended just as the first did - with Xavier on top 25-17.
With their backs against the wall, Central came out swinging in game three and opened the set with three-straight points (Irwin started things with a kill, Xavier hit its own kill attempt out of bounds and Grau finished things with an ace).
The Saints, though, quickly erased the Central lead thanks to their own five-point run.
The Sabers stayed closed and ended up tying the score at six via a pair of Brainerd kills and a Haack ace.
Xavier broke the tie with two-straight points, but Brainerd struck again and Central answered another Saint point by winning a long rally to make it 9-8.
The Saints' answer was one final run, this time a 14-6 push that put Xavier just two points away from a victory.
The Sabers made sure they did not come easily. Brainerd and Kuehn combined for a block and Grau smacked a kill before a Kalyn Bowen ace made it 23-17.
Xavier hurt their own cause with a violation and Kuehn made the Saint fans nervous when her kill brought the Sabers within four.
Central, though, would not score again. Xavier ended the Sabers' five-point run with a block and a Central attack error gave the Saints the final point they needed to advance to the regional final against third-ranked West Delaware.
Irwin paced the Sabers with seven kills, while Brainerd and Grau both added five and Kuehn three.
Kuehn assisted on 18 of Central's kills with Haack helping out on one of her own.
Irwin finished off a well-rounded night by leading the Sabers in digs with 10 and aces with three, while also coming up with a block.
Grau chipped in six digs of her own with Becca Grell adding five.
Brainerd had a team-best four blocks with Haack notching three, and Kuehn and Ladehoff two apiece. Haack served up two
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